Jussel: Did Elway do enough for Broncos in draft?

After all the recruiting and plum-picking, what hath John wrought?

Hath the Great Elway made enough good decisions to return the Denver Broncos, a mediocre 9-7 non-playoff squad last season, to its rightful spot on top of the AFC West?

‘Twas it a good decision to hire rookie head coach Vance Joseph, who in turn hired a bundle of new assistants, including Grand Junction’s own Bill Musgrave?

Did Elway pull enough strings in free agency?

On the offensive side, he signed guard Ron Leary and tackle Menelik Watson and let former starting tackle Russell Okung find greener pastures in Los Angeles. On the defensive side, tackle Domata Peko and end Zach Kerr were recruited.

The Tony Romo situation reared its ugly head for months, but Elway didn’t bite, deciding Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch were plenty at the QB spot.

Hath Elway’s dealings with the draft board provided enough paste and putty to go mano a mano with the likes of the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs in the West? Might this newest edition of the Broncos dare hope for AFC supremacy and another Super Bowl title?

The schedule, of course, looks brutal: There is the matter of dealing with four games with the Raiders and Chiefs. The Raiders will be lame ducks in Oakland, something that could play a role, and the Chiefs will be tough as usual. We might also mention the now-Los Angeles Chargers, a defense on the rise, a rebuilt offensive line, and Philip Rivers still behind center.

The Broncos will have to win more than half of those games to win the West.

There are also home matchups against Dallas, the Giants, New England, Cincy and the Jets. Even the Patriots have trouble in Denver. On the road, it’s Buffalo, Philly, Miami, Indy and Washington. Do-able.

Denver plays four of its first five at home, has a bye in the fifth week and faces seven of the last 11 games on the road. The Broncos had better get ‘em early and hope a bunch of youngsters grow up quickly.

As for the players, the defense should again be among the league’s best — the team’s calling card.

The secondary has four starters who are Pro Bowl caliber, corners Aqib Talib and Chris Harris and safeties T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart. Nickelback Bradley Roby would be a starter anywhere else.

The edge rushers, Von Miller, Shane Ray and Shaq Barrett, are also in a class by themselves.

Denver’s defense will again be a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks.

Questionable last season was the ability to stop the run. Peko was brought in to replace Sylvester Williams and Kerr was brought in to help Derek Wolfe at an end position, not so much to rush the passer, but to plug the run. An immediate impact should come from second-round draft pick DeMarcus Walker, a 280-pound defensive end who had 16 sacks for Florida State last season and was ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

The defense will be better than last season.

As has been the case of late, the offense is the question mark.

It’s a do-over on the line, Okung gone, No. 1 draft pick Garett Bolles brought in likely to start at left tackle next to now-veteran guard Max Garcia. The center will be Matt Paradis, who will be battling back from two hip surgeries.

The right side will be manned by newcomers Leary and Watson — both big, physical maulers. The Broncos will run to the right often and hope Bolles is the answer as a pass blocker on the blind side. If not, well, there are the old standbys in Ty Sambrailo, Donald Stephenson and Michael Schofield. If nothing else, there is depth.

As the line goes, so will go either Siemian or Lynch: That will be the big competition throughout camp, with the winner of the QB battle leading a new-fangled offense created by coordinator Mike McCoy and QB coach Musgrave. Denver will not be as conservative as in the previous two seasons under Gary Kubiak.

Whomever is chosen as QB will be throwing to Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders — and hopefully third-round draft choice Carlos Henderson, a 4.4 speedster who had more than 1,500 yards and 82 receptions last season at Louisiana Tech.

C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker will still shoulder the rushing load.

Denver should be improved on both sides of the ball.

Oh, one other thing: Even after signing all the draft picks, Elway will still have roughly $7 million in cap space. More talent can be added via trade or free agency (tight end Gary Barnidge or defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson perhaps?).

I’m thinking John, to this point, hath wrought plenty with more on the way.


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